Oral Care Sales Stuck in Retail Channels Despite Push From D2C

Quip Toothbrushes

With endless Zoom calls over the last 18 months forcing people to look at their own reflections more than ever before, combined with mask-wearing because of the pandemic, oral health has taken on greater importance for people, especially within the increased focus on health and wellness brought on by COVID-19.

Simon Enever, CEO of direct-to-consumer (D2C) oral care brand quip, told PYMNTS that these changes helped fuel increased awareness of oral health, leading to an uptick in consumers interested in improving their smiles. “We see an even bigger opportunity now, as more and more people have taken a renewed interested in their overall oral health,” he said.

PYMNTS research, conducted in collaboration with sticky.io, found that 52% of consumers have purchased retail products through D2C channels, including approximately 67% of millennials and bridge millennials as well as 61% of Generation Zers.

Enever said that being a D2C brand allows quip to better understand what customers are looking for in oral care products because of the direct relationships it has. “This foundation … enables us to expand that discipline into a product and service offering that is centered on the customer experience and is far broader than only personal care products.”

When it comes to health and wellness products, consumers are less likely to look at D2C brands. While nearly 29% have bought health and wellness products online, only 12% have purchased them through D2C channels, compared to over 21% who have purchased beauty products this way.

Enever said that 84% of oral care purchases specifically are still being made at traditional retailers. That leaves room for quip to grow, but also means it’s still reliant on partnerships with retailers such as Target and Walmart to reach millions of consumers. Over the last year, quip’s retail sales have grown by 100%.

“Accessibility is core to our mission, and we want to provide multiple accessible ways to shop or discover quip and meet our customers where they are,” he said.

This also perhaps points to the fact that some things may not be meant to be purchased in D2C channels — especially items that can easily, and traditionally, be purchased during a big grocery run rather than dozens of smaller purchases through different companies.

But as Enever told PYMNTS, unlike other D2C brands that have struggled to become profitable, the increased interest in oral health during the pandemic and partnerships with retailers and dental professionals actually pushed quip to profitability.

“While it was an adjustment for the team to work from home, it was incredible to see the team adapt and successfully launch new products,” Enever said.

In separate filings with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) to go public, both Warby Parker and Allbirds — perhaps two of the most recognizable D2C brands — said they have yet to make a profit, with Warby Parker also noting that its customer acquisition costs are rising.

“We will need to generate and sustain increased revenue and manage our costs to achieve profitability,” the company wrote. “Even if we do, we may not be able to sustain or increase our profitability.”

Growing the Business

Last week, quip raised $100 million in funding from Cowen Sustainable Investments, which the company intends to use to expand its portfolio of products; create more professional services to complement its quipcare dental plan and clear aligner service; and continue building its oral care companion app, which is currently accessible to users of its smart toothbrush.

“Our members are looking to us to get all aspects of their dental care in a better way — whether that’s improving their at-home care, or finding, scheduling or paying for professional dental care,” Enever said. He pointed to surveys the company has done that found 70% of customers would be interested in using quip to manage dental appointments, and one-third are interested in the clear aligner service launched in April. “It’s a hybrid model that combines the convenience and pricing of a D2C product, but still has professional administration.”

By partnering with over 50,000 oral care providers, quip is also making a play to upend established consumer packaged goods brands whose products are handed to patients after a visit to the dentist or other professional.

“We advocate for and collaborate on innovative ways to improve the customer experience with those partners, and ultimately engage the patients they introduce to quip on our digital oral care platform,” Enever said.